Port Harcourt — The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, and his Niger Delta counterpart, Usani Uguru Usani, yesterday hinted that about N100 billion is required to complete the East-West road linking the three States of Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers of the South-south geo-political zone of the country.
Speaking shortly after the inspection tour which started from Warri, Delta State, and terminated at Eleme junction in Port Harcourt, Amaechi revealed that lack of funds has been responsible for the delay in the delivery of the project.
According to him, the contractors need funds to continue and be permanently on site to execute the job and complete it. "I thank the minister and the president for asking us to come because the opposition has been saying there is no road and that the East-west road has been abandoned.
"Thankfully, you know that we drove all the way from Warri without hitting any bad road. So, in some areas, one lane have been completed, in some areas, the two lanes have been completed.
"So it means that you can drive all the way from Warri to Port Harcourt without hitting any potholes. Those areas where they've not completed the second lane, you heard the man saying that if they get the sum of N59 billion, they will complete it. So, I think that most people are politicising the road. You see what Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) have said now, from Onne to Eket has been completed apart from the bridge that is collapsing somewhere.
"If they complete it from Onne to Eket, it means that section has been completed and from Warri to Patani, what's actually remaining is actually one lane. The second lane from Patani to Ahoada and from Ahoada to Eleme is being completed all the way to Port Harcourt.
The minister added that, "The only place that has not been completed is between Ahoada and Eleme junction."
Speaking further, he revealed that (Setraco Contractors) need N57 billion. While RCC said he needs N43 billion and that's about N100 billion to complete the road and that's apart from Oron which is being negotiated."
"It's important that we in the South-south appreciate the contribution of the federal government and see that we are busy all over the country.
"If I didn't come, I would have been among those that think that nothing is happening in the Niger Delta. That's why I told all the Transportation Correspondents to come and see things as they are. If it is bad, they should report it that it is bad. But I am sure you will not report that it is bad because we drove all the way from Benin to Port Harcourt and there was no pothole."
Amaechi, however frowned at the security challenges threatening project execution in the region, saying, "I am not too happy with the militancy. You will see every contractor with soldiers and police but that is not the right thing to do.
"I am working as the Minister of transportation on Lagos-Ibadan Road and no army or police and there are Chinese there. Nobody is kidnapping them, no communal clashes, nobody is harassing them.
"Here, once you bring one project, everybody gathers. We must tell our young men that things cannot continue this way. If we do, other parts of the country will leave us behind. In the cabinet, nobody is looking at your face, they are looking at the country and other parts that are not ready for development, and other parts won't wait for them."
He said: "You cannot tell anybody from Igbo land to wait until you develop South-south or anybody from Sokoto to wait until you develop Rivers State. It is too bad. Like the Itakpe to Warri rail, we started and they kidnapped a black man. Why should they do that? Why is it that nobody can kidnap anybody from Lagos to Ibadan. We had to hire Nigerian Army and police to go there when they are actually supposed to be resting because we are not at war.
Responding on the importance of the road, Amaechi said, "Of course you know the economy of the South-south is driven by the road. As you were coming, you saw movement of goods and persons.
In the same vein, Usani added that, "We have actually done much to give it preference. For the areas that are not completed, we expect that when contractors return to site, they would work on the growing grasses along the road but for the sections that we have taken over, it is a matter of maintenance as our responsibility."
He said the cost of the project which spans from Warri to Calabar and the last section of the road is under negotiation as mandated by the FEC approval.
"So, we are still negotiating with CCECC and to give a cost when we have not completed negotiations will be improper. When we conclude discussion in the near future, we would be able to give you the total cost. Oron to Calabar is the last section of the road."
On the time frame to complete the project, Usani said: "You can be sure that if the people gives us another vote for another four years, we will complete the project.
As soon as people pay their taxes, stop militancy, bursting of pipelines and as soon as we get more revenue, the project would be completed. The FEC gives priority to this project and this is the reason this ministerial committee was established to come and do the assessment and report back. The government is willing to source for funds from whatever source to give attention to the project."